Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt finished the Tour de France in a grumpy mood. He’d ridden off the front for more than one-third of the race, but the Tour jury decided not to award him the “Super-Combativity” prize. Instead, Frenchman Warren Barguil (Sunweb) won. De Gendt accused the jury of favoring a French guy. Maybe he’s right, and maybe this is a big opportunity to expand cycling’s international appeal. Here’s my plan: Let’s mix in judges from a wide range of nations, similar to how they judge Olympic figure skating. Add some live, on-screen graphics with the votes, a bit of intrigue about the Russian judge’s political affiliation, and boom! TV ratings go up. Let’s not take this too far though — we don’t want to get rid of chip timing or finish cameras altogether. Also, until we can make sense of the Vuelta a España’s “combination” classification (ay, math is hard!), we should try to keep these scoring numbers as simple as possible. De Gendt gets a 9.995!
In Saturday’s stage 20 time trial, Rigoberto Uràn was riding himself into second-place overall. Then, he almost lost it, with the finish line in sight. Fortunately, Cannondale-Drapac’s Colombian pulled out of a near-endo to finish without losing much time. I’ve already suggested that he should try Red Hook Crits after his single-speed sprint win in stage 9. Clearly, his talents go beyond mashing a 53x11T in the sprint. Since his Cannondale-Drapac team just inked a deal with media company Oath, it should put Rigo to work! He could host a video series where he does Danny MacAskill-style tricks. (Okay, maybe not quite this gnarly though.) Or, beyond cycling, Rigo could be cycling’s leading authority on hair care — sorry Marcel Kittel, we just love that Mick Jagger look. Face it, producing Internet content is big business, so don’t hold it against Uràn if he puts cycling on the back-burner to become a full-time entertainer.
Fabio Aru has a newfound love for the Tour de France. He won stage 5 and wore yellow for two days. But his third week was marred by bronchitis. “Maybe it was the blast of air conditioning after a stage. Unfortunately, we have to attend press conferences, interviews, all these things,” he said, noting that he didn’t mind the obligations. However, I think Aru’s Astana team needs to take a page out of Team Sky’s playbook and put the kibosh on media obligations. After all, can we be sure that Aru didn’t catch the bronchitis from some gross journalist with poor hygiene? Froome said he didn’t want to do press conferences, that he needed better rest. Before you know it, riders will hop directly into futuristic noise-canceling recovery pods, like the Hypersleep chambers in “Aliens.” Don’t worry, Tour journalists, they’ll send you quotes via email!
Mikel Landa was a super-duper-domestique in the 2017 Tour. He shepherded Chris Froome through the mountains, finished fourth in two stages and fourth in the overall. After Paris, he said “I cannot let this situation repeat itself,” promising he would only ride as a GC leader in future grand tours. How does the saying go? Fool me once (at the 2015 Giro, when he rode for Aru), shame on you. Fool me twice (at the 2017 Tour, riding for Froome), shame on me (I mean, Landa). Word on the street is that Landa will go to UAE Team Emirates in 2018. If he ends up towing Louis Mentjes up the climbs next season, you can bet the Spaniard still hasn’t learned his lesson.